Darkness into Light

You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend. Psalm 88:18 NIV 

“Darkness creeps into my life,
and robs my passion to live.
It swallows me whole and takes my breath
no kindness will it give.
I’m falling deep beneath the sea
and drowning in my despair
can someone take this away from me
Does anybody care?”

That was the beginning of a poem I wrote in college. I truly felt like darkness was my closest companion. Darkness wouldn’t leave me alone. No matter how hard I tried to be good, I wasn’t. I went to Bible Study, and then I went to clubs. I couldn’t get numb enough. The ache was always there.

Childhood Sexual Abuse causes extreme isolation. I couldn’t get too close to anyone because I didn’t want them to know.  It was too risky.  So, I kept all of the secrets to myself.

I had to wear a mask and pretend all is well.

But behind the mask, I was writhing in pain. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, and the voices were screaming…

The darkness is so very dark.  

The shame would crash over me at unexpected times. Maybe it was a comment someone made. I would read more into their comment and replay it over and over in my mind. Do they know? Can they tell what kind of girl I really am?

How do you hide from the darkness?
How do you run from the darkness?
How can you escape the darkness when it is your constant companion?

Shame’s raw aroma lingers far longer than the abuse.

The darkness says you are bad.
The darkness says you are guilty.
The darkness says you deserve it.
The darkness says God made you that way.
The darkness says there is no hope for you.

All of the secrets and memories fester in the darkness. The wounds ooze behind closed doors and eyelids.

And then there was light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:5

Finally, in counseling I was able to use words to describe the darkness. As I continued to step into the light, the darkness started to lose its power over me.  The light brought me Truth, community, and love. I was no longer alone in the dark.

The Truth says you are wonderfully made.
The Truth says there is no condemnation.
The Truth says you are worthy.
The Truth says God made you in His image.
The Truth says there is hope.

There is hope, and His name is Jesus. When I gave Him access to my story and the darkness – His light and Truth healed me.

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

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Their Words Cut Like Swords

Listen to the filth that comes from their mouths; their words cut like swords. “After all, who can hear us?” they sneer.  Psalm 59:7 NLT

I could barely utter the words to my counselor. Vulgar words were whispered to me in the darkness to describe my body parts and they were playing over and over in my mind like a skipping record.

Who says that to a child?

An abuser.

Childhood Sexual Abuse is not silent abuse. It is incredibly loud. The words cut like swords and leave deep wounds in the heart, mind, body and soul.

Secrets.  Shhhhhhhhhhhh.

Words that were threats to keep me silent.

Words that made me think I deserved or wanted the abuse.

Words that made me feel responsible.

Words that made me feel like something was wrong with me.

Words that filled my tank to the rim with insecurity, fear, anxiety, paranoia, and shame.  

And while I smiled and did my best on the outside to show the world that everything was just fine, those words continued to taunt my insides.

My lips trembled when I spelled some of those words to my counselor with my head bowed in shame and fear. As hard as it was to share them with her, it helped me tremendously to get them out of my head and into the light.

The secrets were all lies, and they were being replaced with new words filled with truth.

I am not alone.

I have a voice.

I am worthy of love.

It was not my fault.

I am wonderfully made.

His truth replenished my empty tank with hope, faith, love, thankfulness, and courage.

Yes, the lies and secrets cut like swords.

But His Truth is sharper.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 NLT

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I thought it was me.

I thought it was me. 

Maybe there was something wrong with me that caused all of this. Was there a sign on my forehead that said “Abuse Me”?

Maybe something was wrong with my body, or maybe I smiled wrong or was too nice? Was it my clothes?

What was wrong with me?

These thoughts swirled around in my mind for years. My secret shame-filled worries constantly reminded me that I was deeply flawed, used and beyond repair.

I lived like the lie was true.

I had no voice.

I never said no.

I always froze.

Sometimes I just left in my mind and went away.

It was how I survived.

What happens to a young girl like me? She finds herself sometimes with people who make her uncomfortable and maybe they say or do things that are inappropriate.

They keep crossing the line to test her to see how she will respond. Will she yell? Will she run?

Nope. She does nothing because that’s all she knows. This isn’t her first rodeo.

Almost over.

Not much longer.

So much shame.

And finally, as I am sitting alone on the couch hunched over in a therapy session, the truth finally starts to sink in.

My counselor pulled out a big flip chart and grabbed Sharpies and she sat on the floor in front of me. We made a timeline. She was writing it all out as fast as I could say it.

My hidden secrets were all splattered on the clean white page.

And like dominoes falling, I saw how the harm from the abuse blazed a path of destruction throughout my life.

There was nothing wrong with me.

It wasn’t my fault.

It was never my fault.

And with tears falling, I wanted to hug the little girl inside of me. She wasn’t dirty and shameful to me anymore. I loved her.

She was resilient.

She was brave.

She survived.

She was loved.

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What if?

 I have a message from God in my heart

    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:

There is no fear of God

    before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves

  too much to detect or hate their sin.

 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;

    they fail to act wisely or do good.

 Even on their beds they plot evil;

    they commit themselves to a sinful course

    and do not reject what is wrong.

Psalm 36:1-4 NIV 

One day I walked into my counseling session with a poster (similar to the image above) that I had covered with Bible verses using a black Sharpie.

Turns out I could relate to a lot of these verses and they helped me to see that even though that picture was huge and my fear was enormous – God’s truth could cover it all.

It helped me to see something very important: Sexual Abuse is pure evil and it operates in complete darkness. It wreaks havoc on the mind, body, and soul. The shame keeps everyone quiet. The domino effect from any disclosure or acknowledgement is far-reaching.

This massive fear keeps everyone in silent denial.  

I was incredibly afraid, so I took my fear and blew it up poster size and I covered it with Truth.

The Truth helped me to see that it was not my fault, and that God was bigger than my fears. When I let His light shine into the darkest places of my abuse, my fears were replaced with His hope, strength and courage.

This verse reminded me that sexual abuse doesn’t just happen.  It is premeditated, and the abuse is repeated over and over and over.  

I couldn’t help but wonder and cry out to God:  What if?

What if we talked about Sexual Abuse in Church?  If His light brings healing how will His light reach the hurting if we don’t let the light in?

What if I grew up hearing about the sin of Sexual Abuse in church? I heard about many sins in church, but not this one.

What if the church helped me as a young girl to understand that I was not bad, but what was happening to me was bad?

What if the church helped him understood how destructive his actions were? What if he realized that all five of my senses would remember, forever?

What if it never happened?

What if it stopped sooner?

What if?

I found myself pleading with God for someone in church to speak up! God, HELP!

He is faithful to hear my cries, and His Word is my guide.

My prayer is that you will search the scriptures in your own journey.  His Word is alive and it will speak to you in powerful ways.  Let His light shine into the darkness and may His truth set you free.

It was never your fault. 

Your strong love, O True God, is precious.
    All people run for shelter under the shadow of Your wings.
 In Your house, they eat and are full at Your table.
    They drink from the river of Your overflowing kindness.
You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst.
    Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls.

Psalm 36:7-9 VOICE

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